Civil War has been a lingering hypothetical brought up in almost every single conversation about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and its hype has only risen since seeds of aggression were planted between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) back in 2012’s “The Avengers”. The original Civil War was a 2006 “event” comic by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, in which Congress passes a law requiring all superheroes to register as agents of the government. Iron Man backs the law, while Captain America leads a resistance of superheroes. The two sides fight, characters were killed for shock value, heroes on both sides are written as obstinate idiots, and the only real plus it had going for it was the dynamic and iconic art of Steve McNiven portraying the event.
Because of this, I had a lot of doubts going into the movie. Captain America getting his third movie co-opted by Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers seemed like a terrible idea, especially after 2014’s “Winter Soldier”, which was arguably the best movie Marvel Studios has ever made. However, my fears have mostly been allayed, and “Civil War” stands as a much truer sequel to the Avengers franchise, as well as managing to be a damn good Captain America movie.
The main strength of “Captain America: Civil War” is in its character work. Every Avenger is given a differing viewpoint in the debate over superhuman registration. And there is a debate. Multiple scenes in the film are focused on Captain America verbally sparring with Iron Man over the new law, which causes the other Avengers to take up sides. Still jarred by his experience in “Winter Soldier,” Rogers is incredibly distrustful of the government trying to take over the Avengers, while Tony Stark feels the pain and regret of what happened during “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. This causes him to be zealously supportive of this new law, afraid of what might happen if the Avengers and superhumans like them go unchecked. Both of these men change and evolve throughout the movie, propelling them further along on a collision course with each other.
Other Avengers, like Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and the Vision (Paul Bettany), receive the much needed character development that they were sorely lacking in “Age of Ultron”.The movie also spends some time introducing two new major players in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). Spider-Man especially is a home run, injected into the story organically and without breaking up the pace as a sort of “protege” of Tony Stark. Meanwhile, Prince T’Challa of Wakanda enters the conflict as the Black Panther, which results in fantastic fight scenes against Captain America and his allies. Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) also joins the larger MCU on Captain America’s side, actually stealing most of the scenes he’s in. If anything, “Civil War” will leave the viewer wanting to see even more interactions between the current and new Avengers.
The villain of the film, Zemo (Daniel Brühl), is a rendition of a classic Captain America villain, but with this particular interpretation he loses the purple mask and villainous monologues while gaining a more sympathetic backstory and using more brutal methods to complete his goals. However, his ultimate plan is more than a little flimsy, and a lot of it seems to rely on complete coincidence and general incompetence. Because of this, the movie can feel like a railroad, shuffling you from set-piece to set-piece, especially in the latter half of the film.
The actual action scenes themselves are abundant, as the movie allows for pretty much every Avenger to demonstrate their usefulness. The opening scene in Lagos shows the Avengers in their element, working as a team, taking down minor villains, much in the vein of the intro sequence of “Winter Soldier.” The film culminates in an airport fight sequence that was teased over and over in the trailers. For the most part, it does not disappoint, with crowd-pleasing sequences performed by pretty much every character on either side, with Spider-Man being the standout character from the scene, feeling right at home in the MCU’s action-comedy direction. However, it’s the final battle between Captain America and Iron Man that packs the biggest emotional charge. It’s a brutal fight to the finish, and an immensely satisfying conclusion.
Not all characters come out of this movie perfectly. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), despite making appearances on promo art as part of Captain America’s team, only makes appearances in the first half of the movie, serving as little more than an ally and a love interest for Captain America and his team. The film is also somewhat light on consequences. It really does feel like there are no hard feelings once the fight is done. It’s slightly odd, how positive the note that the movie ends on is. It does feel like a safe ending, considering the concept they were adapting. However, considering the quality of the original product, safe is probably the best way to go.